Gladys was admitted to Ninewells Hospital, Dundee after suffering stomach problems. Upon arrival she was admitted to Ward 31, a geriatric ward.
Prior to her admission to the ward, several patients had already tested positive for Ribotype 027 of clostridium difficile (C-diff). This Ribotype is the most virulent strain of C-diff and carries a high risk of being fatal. Depsite this, the health Authority didn't close Ward 31 for a further week. As a result, five patients died including Gladys. Gladys' family headed by her daughter Gwen and her children, Nikki and Gary were devastated by her death. They complained to the Health Authority. They got no redress and so they consulted us for advice.
How we helped Gwen and her family
We intimated a claim to the Health Authority. At that time a public inquiry was underway in relation to a similar infection outbreak at the Vale of Leven Hospital and it was agreed to wait on the outcome of this as it was initially believed the inquiry would also cover the outbreak and Ninewells. As it turned out after a long delay the inquiry didn't deal with the Ninewells outbreak. We instructed expert opinions from a Professor of Microbiology and a Professor of Infectious Diseases both of whom gave opinions that the Health Authority was at fault in failing to close the ward quickly enough and that had they done so Gladys would have survived. Despite this, the Health Authority continued to deny liability.
We raised court proceedings, however shortly before the final hearing in the case the Health Authority agreed to settle the claim.
A settlement of £30,000 was agreed. The compensation would have been much higher, but the medical evidence was that Gladys would not have survived beyond some months because of her other health problems. We would like to pay tribute to the determination of Gwen to get justice for her mother. None of the relatives of the other victims of the outbreak felt able to claim. Over a number of years, she carried on with the claim in the face of many difficulties which would have seen many others give up. This was despite having to deal with the emotional pain of dealing with her mother's death and being denied justice for it.
Gwen said: "I was pleased with the way Lindsays dealt with my claim. The claim was never about the money. It was about getting justice for my mother. With the Health Authority settling the claim I feel that I got a recognition from them that my mum's death could have been prevented. I also hope that a number of lessons from the case will be learned by Health Authorities about how to deal with HAI's in the future.